I think the club deserve a lot of credit for ploughing on today when we could have potentially called the game off – we’re in good form and momentum is vitally important, and hopefully we’ve still got a strong first XI to field.
Anthony Patterson, Jack Diamond and Josh Hawkes have all been recalled from their respective loan spells, and it seems likely all three will be involved in the 18, if not the starting line up. Here’s how we might start the game today.
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
After only being back at Notts County for a game, it seems strange to recall Patterson if he wasn’t going to start. We’ve got some other young keepers who could back up Burge or Hoffmann from the bench, so putting two and two together, Patterson could well be starting today. It’ll be a big test for him, but he stood up well to Wycombe in the fixture at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season and he’ll be full of confidence after some strong performances for Notts County.
Defence: Bailey Wright, Tom Flanagan, Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin
We don’t know for certain who’s out through Covid, none of the rumoured absentees include the defence. We’ve been solid in recent weeks and Johnson will be reluctant to make unnecessary changes. The one switch I can see is the fit-again Dennis Cirkin returning to his left back slot. Lynden Gooch has played some of his best football for Sunderland from that position in recent weeks, but the opposition probably dictates a more defensive selection if at all possible.
Midfield: Corry Evans, Dan Neil
Corry Evans has impressed since returning to the team – it’s been good to see him control games and adding a bit of solidity to the midfield. Alongside him in all likelihood will be Dan Neil, although Johnson may be tempted to name Carl Winchester alongside Evans and give Dan Neil a rest – Neil has played a lot of football this season and this is maybe a game we would benefit from the nous, tenacity and experience of a Winchester/Evans combination.
Attack: Lynden Gooch, Alex Pritchard, Ross Stewart, Elliot Embleton
If Cirkin is deployed at left back, we could well see Gooch pushed further forward into an attacking right wing back role. We’ve seen in recent weeks it’s difficult to pin down exact positions for the lads, with a lopsided system being utilised, so I’m including Gooch in the ‘attacking’ group of players. Alongside him, Ross Stewart will be looking to get on the scoresheet again after a hat-trick last time out, while Alex Pritchard has been in fine form and Embleton is showing glimpses of his early season form, too,